Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Seeing is Believing
I. See and believe Godís Word.
II. See and believe that Godís Word works in his people.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at Godís command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past ageóand Sarah herself was barrenówas enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better countryóa heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
There are certain people in history that as soon as you hear their name you immediately associate them with a nickname. When I say Elvis Presley you think ďThe King.Ē When I saw John Wayne, you know him as ďThe Duke.Ē These nicknames reflect characteristics or accomplishments. Nicknames have always been used. Thinking back on some of my history classes there was Alexander the great and Charles the great. There was William the conqueror, Richard the Lion Hearted, Frederick the wise and my personal favorite Harold blue tooth. In the Bible there were nicknames as well. Jesusí disciples had them. Peter was known as The Rock. James and John were known as the Sons of Thunder and if I mention the name Thomas, even people who have a basic knowledge of the Bible or no knowledge at all think of ďdoubting Thomas.Ē
Thomas told the disciples that unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched his wounds he would not believe. For Thomas seeing was believing. Jesus cured him of his doubt by appearing to him and then in a way gave him his nickname when he told Thomas, ďStop doubting and believe.Ē Thomas gets labeled, but the rest of the disciples as well as Godís people today struggle to believe when we donít see. The doubter would be a good nickname for us in life. But today as we study Godís Word I pray that the Holy Spirit would lead us to know that when it comes to faith, seeing is believing. We see and believe Godís Word. We see and believe that Godís Word works in his people.
On Tuesday night in Bible study we asked the question of whether or not we have blind faith. Is our faith based on absolutely no evidence at all? It is in a sense, but we really do have evidence. We really do see and believe when we turn to Godís Word. In Godís Word we see our Savior. His work and his promises create and sustain our faith. Seeing Jesus is believing in Jesus. We were not eyewitnesses nor have we talked to eyewitness, but verse 1 describes it this way. ďFaith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.Ē
Being sure and certain of things that we do not see is not based on an emotion or a feeling. Our faith is founded on facts. It is founded on a real Savior. It is founded on the real life that Jesus lived in our place. It is founded on his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection on the third day. We have not seen these with our own eyes, but seeing them on the pages of scripture is believing. The Lord wants us to see all that he has done for us in his Word. He even uses some earthly elements that we can feel and see and taste. He uses water in Baptism and bread and wine in the Lordís Supper to assure us we are forgiven and going to heaven. These elements connected to Godís Word cause us to see and they cause us to believe.
There are things in this life that we canít see and yet believe. You canít see the air and the oxygen in it yet you believe that it is there and you believe you will be able to breathe when you suck in. We cannot see gravity but we believe that it is real. Even though we canít see them we donít tend to doubt them because they are so much a part of our life. God is the central part of our life but we do tend to doubt our God, his Words and his promises.
Leading people to doubt Godís Word has been the devilís choice method of attack since the Garden of Eden and the tendency to doubt that Word has been the constant sin in the life of Godís people. In the Garden of Eden the devil asked ďdid God really sayĒ and Adam and Eve wondered. For us it might be, ďdid God really do that?Ē when we see the miracles recorded for us in scripture. In verse 3 we hear how creation for example is something we accept by faith. ďBy faith we understand that the universe was formed at Godís command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.Ē The fact that God created the world in six days exactly the way the Bible says is something that we see and believe on the basis of Godís Word. We were not there.
And this teaching about creation is vital for our faith because if God is not telling me the truth about the way he created this world, how do I know he is telling me the truth about the way he saved the world? Doubting Godís Word and demanding to see physical evidence leads to losing that Word and our faith that is founded on it. Doubt can and does lead us to terrible places spiritually. It only gets worse when we think that doubt is no big deal and that everyone doubts. Every one does doubt, but doubt is a big deal. Doubt is sin. Sin leads to hell.
But seeing is believing. Seeing our Savior in Godís Word crushes our doubt. In his Word we see that Jesus never doubted. We see Jesus was always confident in his heavenly Fatherís plan even when that plan meant Jesus going to the cross. In his Word we see that God always keeps his promises, even when we are less than trusting. For those reasons we want people who visit Beautiful Savior and we want all of us to see Godís Word. The Word of God is how we believe and have faith. Godís Word makes us sure and certain not only about the creation of this world, but especially about the salvation of this world. Seeing is believing.
In our Old Testament lesson this morning we heard about Abraham. He was promised a son and had that son at the age of 100. The remaining verses in our reading also talk about Abraham acting in faith. I am sure that at 100 and having a wife at 90 many people would want to see the child that God had given them. Abraham and Sarah probably showed him off a little. It would have been great to visit with Abraham and Sarah and hear them talk about what they saw and what they believed. We will get that chance in heaven but until then we can look at scripture and see and believe that Godís Word works in his people.
Listen to the work done in Abraham. ďBy faith Abraham, even though he was past ageóand Sarah herself was barrenówas enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.Ē It was not the earthly situation. It was not because Abraham and Sarah were so godly and never doubted. They did doubt and they tried to do things their own way. But they had faith that God would keep his Word. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans describes Abrahamís faith this way. ďBeing fully persuaded that God had power to do what he promised.Ē In Abraham we can see and believe that Godís Word works in Godís people.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lived by faith in Godís promises. They knew Godís promise of the land of Canaan, but they trusted that their ultimate homeland would be heaven through the Savior that would come from their family. They lived their lives showing that they believed Godís word even though they did not see with their physical eyes. Verse 8 describes it this way. ďBy faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.Ē
Studying the history of Godís people shows that his Word works. It has to for people to act the way that they did. Abraham left his homeland. Abraham trusted that he and his barren wife would have a son. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac. Isaac and Jacob lived in a land as aliens. They believed that the line of the Savior was coming through them. In the history of Godís people we see how Godís Word works faith and then how he people respond in faith.
We still see this Word of God work in Godís people today. In a few minutes we will install our new vicar here at Beautiful Savior. Godís Word worked faith in him and worked in him the desire to serve in the full time public ministry. We see the Word of God work as we gather for worship this morning. We see Godís Word work as parents bring their child to the waters of Baptism. We see Godís work as we respond to his love in Christ by bringing offerings to support our ministry at Beautiful Savior and in our synod.
But there is still a struggle. We struggle to be in that Word and let it work on our heart. It is struggle to come to worship, to pay attention and meditate on the Word as we sing it and read and hear it. It is a struggle to attend Bible study and Sunday school. We struggle to find an excuse to soothe our conscience because we know we should be in the Word of God. But there is no excuse. The Word of God works in us repentance. The Word leads us to see our sin and our need for a Savior.
This is how God leads us back to his Word. We see our sin and need for a Savior. In his Word we see how he worked in the life of his people and believe that he keeps working in our life. That Word brought us to faith. That Word strengthens our faith. That Word moves us in life to serve with love and willingness. Godís people today are examples of Godís Word at work. Seeing is believing. I met with a man this week that reminded me that our church was filled with sinners. He was right. Look around at this church full of sinners who have been forgiven in Christ. We are the evidence.
I wonder how long it took for Thomas to shake that nickname of the doubter. Did the other disciples make fun of him a little bit? We donít know from scripture but church tradition tells us that Thomas like the rest of the disciples followed the great commission and went to share his Savior. He saw and believed that Jesus rose and he worked to spread that message. The devil can be good at reminding us of sin we committed. He may call us doubter, or drunkard, or deceiver. But God still calls us his child. He has the final naming rights. And it is not a nickname. His name sticks. We are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. We call God our God and he is not ashamed to call us his children. See and believe it in Godís Word. See and believe that it works in your life. Amen.
Pastor Matt Brown
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (WELS) of Union City, Tennessee, Rooted in the WORD